Toronto Maple Leafs Take Familiar Approach to Free Agency


Toronto Maple Leafs Take Familiar Approach to Free Agency

Mar 28, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) is congratulated on his goal by defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) and right wing Phil Kessel (81) and left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) and defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) as Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) looks on at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Senators 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs said they were not going to be big players when it came to the free agent market. However, they made big news when they traded Phil Kessel, while still having to fill empty spots on the roster.

The Leafs unrestricted free agents heading into free agency were Troy Bodie, David Booth, Eric Brewer, Joakim Lindstrom, Frazer McLaren, Colton Orr, Zach Sill and Trevor Smith. While there is still a chance that Booth, Bodie and Brewer would be considered by management for next season, the Leafs were busy pursuing other free agents.

Apr 16, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Matt Hunwick (44) shoots against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the second period of game one of the first round of the the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Hunwick was the Leafs first signing of the day – it is a cheap deal that sets the 30 year old veteran up to play on the third pairing . He could also be a target for teams at the trade deadline, where the Leafs can flip Hunwick for picks/prospects.

The other interesting note about Hunwick were his advanced stats while playing for the New York Rangers. The Leafs have invested more in analytics, and they posted this tweet shortly after signing Hunwick:

May 9, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing P.A. Parenteau (15) shoots on Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) during the second period in game five of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The next free agent signing was P.A. Parenteau, to a one-year $1.5 million contract. He was recently bought out by the Montreal Canadiens.

There were issues with the Canadiens coaching staff when Parenteau was a healthy scratch during the season, and Montreal wanted to alleviate his $4 million cap hit. Shortly after he was bought out, Parenteau said that Mike Babcock called him and recruited him to Toronto.

Parenteau will get a shot at a top six role with the Leafs, and has the potential to be a 15-20 goal scorer. As with Hunwick, the Leafs tweeted his analytical value:

Apr 4, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Mark Arcobello (36) scores on San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) during the third period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs then signed centre Mark Arcobello to a one-year $1.1 million deal. He joined a rare club of players who played with four different teams last season.

Arcobello went from the Edmonton Oilers to the Nashville Predators, and then onto the Pittsburgh Penguins, before finishing the campaign with the Arizona Coyotes. For the season, he had 31 points (17 goals- 14 assists) in 77 games.

He will probably play on the third or fourth line on the wing and could see time killing penalties. This was the Leafs analytical stat on Arcobello:

Jan 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Daniel Winnik (26) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The final singing that the Leafs announced, was the return of a familiar face in Daniel Winnik. He signed a two-year $4.5 million contract, which caries a $2.25 million cap hit.

Winnik was an important player for the Leafs last season, before he was traded to Pittsburgh. He was their top penalty killer, playing on the wing and at centre.

He had 25 points in 58 games with the Leafs last season. He will most likely be relied upon again in the upcoming season to do the same, and be a leader for the younger players in the lineup.

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As the team currently sits, they have 11 forwards (not counting Nathan Horton), seven defencemen, and one goalie under contract for next season. They still have Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Bernier, Martin Marincin as RFAs, so if they get those three signed to new deals, the Leafs will probably look at a couple of forwards and a defenceman heading into training camp.

The other thing to keep in mind is whether the team is done with making trades. There is still a chance that Tyler Bozak, Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul could be dealt.

Jan 7, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson (4) turns up ice against the Washington Capitals at the Air Canada Centre. Washington defeated Toronto 6-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The other thing to consider is whether newly acquired players like Sam Carrick, Zach Hyman, Stuart Percy, and Scott Harrington push for a spot on the roster. There were also rumours about the Leafs being interested in bringing back Cody Franson, but unless he is willing to take less term or a lower salary, it would probably be best to let another team overpay him.

Imagine what could have been if the Leafs decided to take this route years ago, and whether the team would be this far back? Regardless, the important thing to consider is that the new management team has taken a different direction from before, and it could mean a better future in Toronto – hopefully sooner rather than later.

Next: Looking back at the Leafs 2015 draft